Beginner backyard chicken keepers often get recommendations for middle-to-large, hardy egg-layers like Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, or Plymouth Rocks. In our years of chicken-keeping, we’ve had many breeds, from bulky but gentle Brahmas to dainty Silkies, but I was always biased in favor of larger breeds. Last spring, with the unexpected gift of a few hatching eggs from a friend, we added some small hybrid chickens to our flock.
Our mini-hens have just started laying (yes, even as the days were at their shortest!) and I absolutely love them. Now I really think every backyard flock keeper, especially urbanites, should consider keeping some small-sized chickens. Here’s why.
Benefits of Raising Small-Sized Chicken Breeds
Space. If you have unlimited space for your chickens to roam, that’s great. But if you live in a town and only have a little strip of space for a coop and a small chicken run, keeping smaller birds will make it less crowded.
Eggs. Small eggs are extremely convenient when you’re halving a recipe and need, for example, 1 ½ egg instead of three, or just need a bit of egg to brush some bread loaves. Small eggs are also extremely flavorful and often have a high yolk-to-white ratio.
Feed. Little chickens eat less. If you rely on commercial feed for your flock, that’s a huge bonus. I’ve often been astonished at how fast Brahmas or RIRs can get through a sack of feed. Smaller chickens also produce less waste, which makes coop upkeep easier.
Fun. Small chickens make wonderful pets. They are easy even for kids to handle, and around here you’ll often see children with miniature chickens on their laps.
Heat tolerance. I’ve observed that smaller, lighter breeds tolerate heat better than bulky birds. Living in a hot climate, we’ve always had to mist-spray our Brahmas on hot days to keep them comfortable, but smaller chickens just take it in stride. Of course, for colder climates, large birds with plentiful feathering may be more suitable.
Quieter vocals. Our small chickens produce a lot less noise than their full-sized coop mates. Smaller roosters often have a mellower crow, too.
Very Few Drawbacks
Some people report that their larger chickens bully the bantams so that they can’t keep the two together. I haven’t personally experienced this problem, but you’ll always want to keep an eye on flock dynamics, especially if you plan to introduce adult birds to an existing flock.
Perhaps the one main drawback of small chickens is their higher vulnerability to predators. A stray cat won’t mess with a full-grown Plymouth or Rhode Island Red but can carry off a small bantam in a blink of an eye.
If you’re thinking of giving miniature chickens a try, I promise you’ll love them. Some bantam breeds you may consider include Silkies, Sebrights, and Cochin Bantams.
Anna Twitto‘s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna, her husband and their four children live on the outskirts of a small town in northern Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Anna’s books are on her Amazon.com Author Page. Connect with Anna on Facebook and read more about her current projects on her blog.
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